Monday, May 28, 2007

Wall Street Journal, Day 1: Good, Quiet Vibrations

EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J. - Today is Memorial Day, so of course I should start off by saluting all the brave men and women who have died in military service fighting for the United States and all it stands for---especially those who are laying their lives on the line in this Iraq mess. Hopefully all your lives have not been lost in vain. War is such a messy business, to say the least.

But today was also another special day, perhaps one less important in the grand scheme of things except strictly on a personal level: it was the first day of my Wall Street Journal internship. Yep, Memorial Day. Which meant that there wasn't really a great deal of activity going on at the Dow Jones office in South Brunswick today, as much of the important copy had already been edited before the holiday. So it was rather dead in the office.

Still, my fellow WSJ intern and I did get introduced to various other copy editors in addition to getting a fairly good idea what kind of a job we'd be expected to do. We also spotted a couple of editors as they showed us how to do things on the computer. It's actually pretty complicated, let me tell you! They have a whole internal system set up to make things easier for editing and layout---functions preset, pages already formatted so all a copy editor has to do is just edit the story and then come up with a headline.

Headlines! That's the one thing we both accomplished today: helping the editors we spotted formulate headlines for articles. Unsurprisingly, it was hardly a walk in the park; in fact, it probably took us more time to come up with a headline that fit than to actually edit the brief story itself! This might be an interesting aspect of my experience here, to say the least: even as Inside Beat film section editor, I rarely took part in creating headlines for the articles I edited, so I haven't had a great deal of practice formulating headlines except for in a few of my classes (including my two-week training session at Temple). The way we attacked headlines today, though, almost made it feel like fun. Well, we'll see how fun it is when I inevitably have to tackle headlines on my own; I may be tearing my hair out in frustration, but hopefully it won't get to me.

Overall, it was a nice first day. I got to the place without a problem, I got there about a half-hour early (in fact, both of us got their at precisely the same time; when I drove up to the gate, I discovered that the car in front of me, with the North Carolina license plate, was Tyler---oh yeah, that's his name), and the people all seemed cordial and genuinely willing to help. Seems like a lovely environment for any internship. It's actually quiet there, too---that's certainly different from the noisy, bustling environment I expected from a newsroom, even a copy editing section. Again, it could just be the fact that today is Memorial Day, but in talking to one of the editors, I got the impression that a quiet environment is actually typical there.

Hopefully the goodwill vibes won't disappear when I actually have to start getting down to work. (At least, though, I'll actually be working, not just getting coffee for people and such. And I'm getting paid, yes!)

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